4 Nov 2010

American Psychological Association declares gay-to-straight therapy is harmful and doesn't work

Yahoo!News - Associated Press August 5, 2009

Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

NEW YORK – The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA's governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called "reparative therapy" which seeks to change sexual orientation.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto, where the association's annual meeting is being held this weekend.

The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.

Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.

"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

"We have to challenge people to be creative," said Glassgold.

She suggested that devout clients could focus on overarching aspects of religion such as hope and forgiveness in order to transcend negative beliefs about homosexuality, and either remain part of their original faith within its limits — for example, by embracing celibacy — or find a faith that welcomes gays.

"There's no evidence to say that change therapies work, but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them, and when they don't work, they feel doubly terrified," Glassgold said. "You should be honest with people and say, 'This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'"

One of the largest organizations promoting the possibility of changing sexual orientation is Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."

Its president, Alan Chambers, describes himself as someone who "overcame unwanted same-sex attraction." He and other evangelicals met with APA representatives after the task force formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.

"It's a positive step — simply respecting someone's faith is a huge leap in the right direction," Chambers said. "But I'd go further. Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

An evangelical psychologist, Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, praised the APA report for urging a creative approach to gay clients' religious beliefs but — like Chambers — disagreed with its skepticism about changing sexual orientation.

Yarhouse and a colleague, Professor Stanton Jones of Wheaton College, will be releasing findings at the APA meeting Friday from their six-year study of people who went through Exodus programs. More than half of 61 subjects either converted to heterosexuality or "disidentified" with homosexuality while embracing chastity, their study said.

To Jones and Yarhouse, their findings prove change is possible for some people, and on average the attempt to change will not be harmful.

The APA task force took as a starting point the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences.

The report said the subgroup of gays interested in changing their sexual orientation has evolved over the decades and now is comprised mostly of well-educated white men whose religion is an important part of their lives and who participate in conservative faiths that frown on homosexuality.

"Religious faith and psychology do not have to be seen as being opposed to each other," the report says, endorsing approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."

Perry Halkitis, a New York University psychologist who chairs the APA committee dealing with gay and lesbian issues, praised the report for its balance.

"Anyone who makes decisions based on good science will be satisfied," he said. "As a clinician, you have to deal with the whole person, and for some people, faith is a very important aspect of who they are."

The report also addressed the issue of whether adolescents should be subjected to therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation. Any such approach should "maximize self-determination" and be undertaken only with the youth's consent, the report said.

Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist who has sought to discredit the so-called "ex-gay" movement, welcomed the APA findings.

"Ex-gay therapy is a profound travesty that has led to pointless tragedies, and we are pleased that the APA has addressed this psychological scourge," Besen said.

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National Post - Canada August 7, 2009

Homosexuality: Trouble on the reorient express

Gay conversion still focus of controversy

Charles Lewis | National Post

There is a good possibility the session at which Stanton Jones will present his paper at the 117th annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Toronto will be sparsely attended but raucous.

First off, it is at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, not exactly prime time.

And then there is the title of his paper: Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation.

After a six-year study, Dr. Jones reached the conclusion that some homosexuals can become heterosexuals. It is an idea that is deeply resented in the gay community, because it implies that homosexuality is a mental disorder, and almost universally dismissed in the world of psychology. Indeed, a report this week by the American Psychological Association (APA) said there was not a shred of evidence that homosexuals can be "converted."

Dr. Jones, and his research partner, Mark Yarhouse, base their findings on a study of about 98 men and women who sought help from Exodus International, a Florida-based evangelical ministry that provides sexual-orientation conversion therapy and counselling.

"I had met people in the religious community who claimed to have changed," said Dr. Jones, a professor of psychology at Wheaton College, an elite Christian school in Illinois. "And at the same time I saw a growing momentum behind the view that change is impossible. As a scientist it is an empirically interesting question when you see a growing momentum behind a view but you feel that you also see exceptions to that view. So I thought it would be an interesting thing to study."

The group was composed almost entirely of born-again Christians, the average age was 35, more than half were university educated and some had graduate training. Only a small percentage had been abstinent when they entered the study. Exodus paid for the study, but Dr. Jones said that he told the group he would report whatever he found.

Their study found two forms of success in their study group:

"[A]n embrace of chastity with a reduction in prominence of homosexual desire. ... [And] the second form of success was marked by a diminishing of homosexual attraction and an increase in heterosexual attraction, with resulting satisfactory, if not uncomplicated, heterosexual adjustment."

Dr. Judith Glassgold, a clinical psychologist who led the APA task force, said the paper was not written in response to Dr. Jones' work, though it did dismiss his findings.

"We don't believe the claims were proven, to be honest," said Dr. Glassgold in an interview. "In our looking at all the research we find that people don't change their underlying sexual attraction. What they do is figure out a way to control their attractions. And some learn to live a heterosexual life but mostly for religious motivation."

At best, the APA report said, psychologists can help their gay clients come to terms with the conflicts they face - especially when those clients are conflicted because of their conservative religious beliefs, the main reason homosexuals seek help to change their sexual orientation.

Dr. Jones said his findings are not cut and dried and no one is "cured" of their homosexuality completely.

"When people think of conversion they want to imagine a light switch that you're either heterosexual or homosexual and it's robust one way or robust the other way," said Dr. Jones. "But it's more complex than that."

The study showed that change is possible for some, but it does not mean it is possible for all, he said.

For example, of the people who started six years ago, about a third dropped out. Of those, some said that they had embraced their gay identity and wanted nothing more to do with the study or Exodus International. One left because he said he had been "cured," only to admit later that he had lied about his sexual transformation. Others said they did not trust the researchers because of their association with a Christian organization.

Of the 60 who stuck it out, Dr. Jones said 33 said they made positive changes, with half of that group opting for celibacy. But this is where the word transformation becomes elastic.

Those who reported making the change did not have the same heterosexual experience as those who had always been heterosexual.

"A typical hetero male finds himself attracted to a wide range of females. But among the successful people who reported conversion the typical response was I'm very happy with my sexual responses to my wife, but I don't experience much hetero attraction to other women. Also, when asked and pressed about whether they still find attraction to men, they will say: ‘Yes, if I let my mind go in that direction.' "

Dr. Jones said that as an evangelical Christian, he takes the traditional moral view that "homosexual conduct is problematic and not what God intended for us" but he was not doing the research as part of a crusade to change homosexuals. Rather, he was presented with a pool of people who had made their own decision to seek change and as a scientist he wanted to study what they had gone through.

"Some religious people speak with great fervour that every person can change if they will just repent and turn to God. That's not very convincing to me; not everyone can change their orientation. But this claim that people can come out of the gay lifestyle and actually experience significant change to their orientation I find to be an interesting claim and one which as a scientist I was somewhat agnostic about."

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 1980 a new diagnosis was created that included a "persistent lack of heterosexual arousal" and "distress from a sustained pattern of unwanted homosexual arousal." In 1986 the diagnosis was removed entirely.

"Homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality," said Dr. Glassgold. "That is why it is a potentially dangerous process to try to change it."

She said it is better to find ways that gays "can unite their sexuality and their faith. It's more stable solution than choosing one over the other. Especially choosing one's faith over one's sexuality."

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said his decision to change his own sexual orientation was motivated by his evangelical faith and his conservative Southern upbringing.

He spent years trying to reconcile the two, even attending a gay Christian Church for a time in Florida, before realizing he would have to choose one over the other.

"It takes years, no matter what struggles you have in life, to resolve these issues. People don't walk into one meeting of Weight Watchers and walk out a size two."

Now married with two children, he holds no animosity towards friends who are gay and thinks the world has improved by becoming more tolerant gay life. He does not expect the overwhelming majority of homosexuals to take his path. He knows for those who follow his way, it would be tough.

"Can I be tempted? Yes. There are things I stay away from. I don't go to certain movies, I don't look at certain things. I know what trips my trigger. As far as my desire to be sexually with a man, I don't have that. But I could. So I'm careful."

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UK psychotherapist faces discipline hearing for using discredited Christian based homosexual conversion therapy

Undercover investigation prompts British Medical Assn. to call for ban of discredited, harmful gay conversion therapies 

Who is the Real Anti-Christian: the Atheist or the Fundamentalist Christian?

Religiously inspired disdain and hatred of gay people leads to bullying and death of vulnerable youth

Ex-gay therapy is child abuse and those who practice it have blood on their hands

Inside look at abusive Teen Challenge program run by fundamentalist Assemblies of God that claims to cure homosexuality

Behind the Walls: The Teen Challenge You Won't See

Teen Challenge--an Assemblies of God-run "kiddie boot camp" chain

"I hope that by educating people that we can stop kids from living with longterm scars"

Founder of abusive Teen Challenge ministry predicts imminent 'earth shattering calamity'

Third Wave 'Spiritual Warfare' movement indoctrinating young children to do battle for the Lord

'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy

Baptist pastor sued by four men for sex abuse when they were teens preaches that homosexuals deserve death

New website tracks clergy abuse in Church of God in Christ, but is run by pastor who abuses gay christians

Connecticut Church Posts Exorcism of Gay Teen on Youtube

Fundamentalist "Truth Academy" indoctrinating teens to fear and fight homosexuals as a threat to religious freedom

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls 

Massachusetts Catholic school officials rescind admission of 8 year old after learning his parents are lesbians

As one bishop blames Jews for current criticisms of Catholic church, another blames homosexuality for pedophile priests 

UK bishops denounce Cardinal for linking clergy sex crimes to homosexuality, Vatican out of touch with society

Belgium's Catholic primate faces demands to step down after controversial remarks on pedophile priests and AIDS

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

Brazilian bishops prepare anti-abuse guidelines, Archbishop says teens are "spontaneously homosexual" & "society is pedophile"

Bishop of Tenerife blames child abuse on the children

President of British Humanist Association: sex and death lie at the poisoned heart of religion


  1. Former Ex-Gay Ministry Leader Comes Out, Recants Previous Teachings

    by Zach Ford Think Progress October 11, 2011

    Love in Action (LIA) is one of the largest and oldest ex-gay ministries in existence, founded in 1973, the same year the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. John Smid resigned as the group’s executive director in 2008, and since then has slowly beenrethinking his understandings of sexuality and his beliefs about homosexuality. In a new blog post last week, Smid has shown just how far he has come, acknowledging his own homosexuality (despite his loving marriage to his wife) and the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed. Here are some of the key confessions Smid makes:

    NO ONE CHANGES: “One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable… I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation.Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”

    NOT JUST BEHAVIOR: “I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective. Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.”

    GAYS CAN BE CHRISTIAN: “I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.”

    I AM HOMOSEXUAL: ”I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman. My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual. I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement. Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.”


    Hopefully, testimonies like Smid’s will help others open their eyes to the experience of LGBT people beyond what they’ve convinced themselves is “moral” or “best for society.”

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  2. End of the Ex-Gay Movement?

    by Michelle Goldberg Daily Beast Oct. 13, 2011

    Last week, John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, acknowledged on his blog that, contrary to the claims of the movement he represented for decades, gay people cannot become straight. “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” he wrote. He himself certainly has not. “I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman,” he explained. He loves his wife and has no plans to leave her, but wrote, “this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.”

    Smid, who resigned from Love in Action in 2008, was just the latest ex-gay luminary to leave the movement, either voluntarily or in a cloud of scandal. His break with ex-gay orthodoxy is a sign that, even in the evangelical world, the notion that sexual orientation can be altered is increasingly crumbling in the face of reality. Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.

    Though he didn’t realize it at the time, Smid’s journey away from the ex-gay movement began in 2005. That’s when 16-year-old Zach Stark posted on MySpace that his parents were forcing him into Love In Action’s boot camp-style residential rehab program in Memphis, setting off a nationwide uproar. The program cut people off from their old lives—the rulebook forbid “reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind,” and even keeping a private journal was verboten. Time spent in the bathroom was monitored to prevent masturbation. Hoping to reach Stark in his isolation, protesters stood outside throughout much of the teenager’s eight-week stay.

    One of them, Morgan Jon Fox, eventually made a documentary about the confrontation, This Is What Love in Action Looks Like. Smid agreed to let Fox interview him, and their meeting had a deep, lasting impact.


    He also published an apology on his website, inviting those who’ve been through Love in Action to contact him. “If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize with the hope that we can both be released from the bondage of unforgiveness,” he wrote.

    Still, some who feel victimized by his organization say that Smid’s apology hasn’t gone far enough. “I don’t think he yet understands quite the damage and the harm he has done,” says Peterson Toscano, who spent two years in Smid’s program as an adult and later created a one-man show about it, “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo’ Halfway House.” “It was a very destructive process mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually—all across the board.” Toscano describes an incident when Smid, responding to a young man of 19 or 20 who wanted to leave the program, staged a mock funeral. The would-be defector had to lie still on a table while the other participants “talked about how terrible it was that he didn’t stick with God, and now look where he is, he’s dead because he left,” says Toscano.

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